On Relationships

Not interpersonal human relationships, as that is better served by the professionals.

Not MMO player relationships (guilds, etc) as that is still managed between human beings.

In Fallout: New Vegas, I am asked to manage relationships in game via two formats – Karma, and Reputation with various groups.

Karma is interesting – if you do something inherently bad, even out of sight, you ‘lose’ it. Down the road your Karma rating is a benchmark on whether certain groups or characters will work with you. It is an unforseen force, yet exists. Many argue that to be true in our real lives. Karma, is apparently, a bitch.

Example in game: I am tired. I see a bed. I mouse over the bed to have the option to sleep in it. The choice is in red – if I choose to sleep in it I will lose Karma. It is red only because it ‘belongs’ to a character in game. I can’t ask that character for permission to sleep in his bed. I only have the choice to sleep in it, lose Karma, or not sleep in it and find another place to sleep. For some reason you can’t sleep on couches. (One of my favorite pasttimes).

Oddly enough, if I kill the owner of the bed I don’t lose Karma. Now that he/she is dead, the game flags the bed as ‘unowned’ and I can choose to sleep in that bed and not lose Karma. Sad post-apolyptic survival social commentary that you get penalized for sleeping in a bed without asking, unless you kill the owner of the bed first. I should probably just end this article here, but there is more.

The second managed reputation is with faction. If that same owner of the bed is a member of a group, say the NCR, then if I kill him I lose reputation with the NCR (even without a witness). In my play through in F:NV the NCR and I don’t get along. Apparently I was more concerned with my Karma score than my Rep scrore, and heck, you need to sleep a lot in the game.

I get a mission to go speak to an NCR Leader at an Embassy. He teases me with the premise that if I go speak to him he has the power to offer me amnesty for my past crimes against NCR bed owners. I decide to go have a chat with him. Unfortunately for me he is located deep in a NCR Military Police Base. Unfortunately for the NCR MP’s the Leader didn’t inform them that he asked to speak with me.

I kill 40 NCR MP’s on my way to the NCR Leader ( I have to kill them, they won’t let me walk by) to get my amnesty. In fact, I even killed 2 in his room while he sat at his desk and watched. I believe a head exploded on his paperwork. There is a severed limb of one of his NCR guards in his lap.  He watched, waited for me to finish, then offered me my desired amnesty if I would take the time to go convert a neutral faction to the NCR cause.

I go do so, and the NCR and I are pals once again.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. This has always bothered me at some level. It’s almost like there’s this incredible Orwellian police state in these games with a totally screwed up priority set.

    Thing is, it wouldn’t be hard to fix things like the amnesty bit. It’s just lazy that they don’t, methinketh.

  2. Yeah, seems like a pretty simple programming fix. When you get the quest, NCR folk just get unflagged as hostile for you.

    Sad part is, they actually DID that with the NCR for roaming mobs. If you are hostile to a faction, there is always a chance a group of their bounty hunters pop up looking for you. The NCR hunters approached me in the middle of a radioactive field, and as I pulled my guns the head honcho said “You have three days to make ammends with NCR or we are coming for you”. They came again 2 days later to remind me. So the programming was a thought in that case, just not my example in game.

    The Karma made sense as there is inherently ‘good’ and ‘bad’, although it was a bit overblown. If I stole a fork from a table (that was flagged as ‘owned’) I’d lose Karma. Seriously? A rusty fork in a post apocolypse survival land? Anyway. I digress.

    Point is, having reputations and faction systems can be a fun game within a game, if done cleanly.

  3. Oh, it can certainly add a lot to a game world, lending life to NPCs and lore to the world. It really does surprise me that we don’t see a bit more effort on it.

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